Plataform: Commodore 64
Controller: Keyboard or Joystick
After the Videogame Crash of 1983, a place where the startup industry of videogames found first to survive and later to flourish is the 8bit personal computers, particulary in Europe. Many of these computers were unknown at the time in North America. A sport with many titles for this market was rugby.
Codemaster, a company specialized in budget titles, which were NOT synonym with bad quality, made quite a formidable quantity of sports titles with the name “simulator” in them, and having one of rugby was kinda-of mandatory at the time.
One of the first noticeable changes comparing to prior videogames of this sport is the horizontal perspective instead of a vertical one, which IMO is an advance and the videoplayer can get a better view of the field and game. Before the start of the match, the videoplayer can choose the name of the team for play, along with changes to tactics used by the virtual teammates whenever they are not controlled by the videoplayer. These tactics can be from personal chasing the rival with the ball, or only cover certain zones. Part of the magic of the game is finding the best tactic for the videoplayer.
Once the game has started, the game has an intuitive control in some aspects (while not in others). When the team controlled by the videoplayer has the ball, it’s possible to pass the ball by pressing the button and indicating with the joystick to any virtual teammate, as long as the player is behind the rugbyier with the ball, like a real-life match of rugby. If you press the button, and indicates with the joystick toward the direction you must go to score a try, instead of a pass does a kick to the posts, which can be very useful to pass enemy lines, or scoring from a distance, which can be more frequent but scoring less points. You can assume that the AI computer is good at defending for a try, which is the reason it’s somewhat easier to score drop-kicking.
While defending, the thing is a bit less intuitive. Same like attacking, the rugbyer controlled by the videoplayer appears with a distinct color, and with the joystick button, you can change the rugbyer to control. This means, that there is no automatic change to the closest rubyer to the rival, like in other videogames (not only of rugby) at the time. In fact, for me it was not very intuitive, already accustomed to press the button of the defender and this one tries to tackle the rival. Once you can get the feeling of that, you can be a bit more worthy rival of the AI computer.
Hey, whay about the scrums? Of course they are present, with a defacto standard of juggling horizontally the joystick in an effort to win it. Also, there is implemented put the ball in game after it left the field, a new feature in this game. If you try to score with a drop-kick the game changes to a screen where you can see how the ball goes to the goal. For kicking, appears a couple of indicators which measures both power and altittude of the ball when kicked. It’s funny, and a bit frustrating at first, when you see that the ball miss the goal.
I don’t have a deep knowledge of rugby of the 80s, but I get a bit knowledge of traditional powers of the sport. For that reason, I find the particular selection of teams a bit… odd. By example, traditional teams like England, France, Ireland and Scotland are present (but not Wales), meanwhile from the southern hemisphere only New Zealand is present, but is named Kiwis. I can understand that Russia (even, as at the time was part of the Soviet Union) is present, as is a relatively major power between the medium teams of Europe. But, what definitely blows my mind, is the presence of the two Germanies existing at the 80s, come on, no germanic team has appeared in a Rugby World Cup. And even more intriguing, is the presence of China instead of Japan.
The good news are that if you are not comfortable with these teams, the game allows you to change the name to any of them.
I found this port easier to play against the AI computer. I don’t know if that was because of differences in the programming of the game respecting the C64, or if I was getting a bit better at the game when I played this port after getting my gluteus maximus royally kicked in the C64 game.
In this game I was able to score a try for the first time, in fact was in the first play of the game, but I learned in a very bad way, that when you cross the score line, you have to press the button to release the ball, if not, the try does not count. I have mixed feelings toward this particular feature.
The animation is more fluid in this port, but it is not reflected in the perception of time in the game. Meaning, does not feel faster or slower. Probably the selected colors give a more fluid sensation.
The same as the C64 port, the lineup of teams is questionable at best, but China is not there.
There were ports to these other platforms:
- Atari ST (with the name Advanced Rugby Simulator)
- Sinclair Spectrum.
Without doubt, an advance in rugby videogames, even if scoring a try is a bit harder to do, and at your first games (there are some who consider this a valid tactic to use) you have to accustom yourself to scrore kicking, which I have to admit is not very common in nowadays rugby matches.
Console Icons taken from Retroarch.